Emerging Evidence: The New Underground

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In the 90s, people used to talk about underground movements a lot. Underground music, underground art, underground gaming—the moniker was a term used to describe independent or lesser-known entertainment that was hot. It was gaining popularity, and you were cool for being in the know about it.

Fast-forward 16 years, and where is the underground now? Technology has exponentially increased the speed at which we learn about things. Nothing stays secret for long, and we no longer gauge “underground” by physical impact in our world, but by views and likes. So how do you create something that’s underground now? How do you make something organically grow in the era of Twitch, YouTube and Snapchat?

There are a few routes. One is best illustrated by a new band currently touring the country: Mac Sabbath. The band that proclaims “we sold our souls for cinnamon rolls” dresses up as twisted versions of old McDonald’s characters. Singer Ron Osbourne, guitarist Slayer MacCheeze, bassist Grimalice and drummer Peter Criss Cut Fries parody Black Sabbath songs, turning them into anti-fast-food anthems. “Paranoid” becomes “Pair-a-buns,” “Iron Man” becomes “Frying Pan,” and “Sweet Leaf” becomes “Sweet Beef.” They write about topics like GMO food, nutritional values in fast food, consumerism and low wages in the fast-food industry. You’d think a band like this would have gone viral by now and be everywhere, but Mac Sabbath refuses to publish any music. Instead, they have relied solely on word-of-mouth and touring, spreading across metal music blogs for the last two years and even garnering the attention of Black Sabbath itself as they shared a bootleg-shot YouTube video of the band performing.

It’s not just the insane-sounding backstory of Mac Sabbath that is packing clubs across the country (for the record, Ron Osbourne apparently never breaks character, and claims to be a time traveler from the 1970s come forward in time to warn people about the “government control of food”) because the band is actually good. It would be one thing if they coasted on their looks alone, offering a decent one-off experience, but these guys can actually play. I’ve seen them firsthand and can attest to the musical nature of “Drive-thru Metal”: It’s delicious.

What’s interesting here is that Mac Sabbath is leveraging the fact that they’re not digitally engaging in what we consider today to be normal. Sure, they use Facebook, and they’re not taking down the multitude of fan-shot YouTube videos online, but they’re not doing anything else either. They actually utilize the fact that they’re so offline as a differentiator to other bands. By forcing people to search for them and engage on their own rather than the other way around, Mac Sabbath is authentically underground.

Adam Hails

Senior insights officer and cultural/behavioral analyst at Culturewaves.

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